For Great performance Good value for money Comfortable and refined Our Rating 4.5 Against Waiting list to buy is long Similar Kia e-Niro is more practical No long-range entry model 2018
Big on range and performance, practical and stylish – the Hyundai Kona Electric is a fantastic EV
The Hyundai Kona Electric is one of our favourite EVs – punchy performance, a genuinely useful range and decent levels of comfort and practicality make it a great all-rounder. The only rival that’s worth considering over the Kona is the Kia e-Niro, a broadly similar EV that’s built on the same platform and uses the same powertrain, but is slightly longer and more practical. The Hyundai doesn’t trail too far behind, however.
The Kona Electric boasts a bolder look than many of its rivals, is very well made and comes complete with Hyundai’s excellent five-year, unlimited mileage warranty. A version with a 39kWh battery is available for those who don’t need a huge range and want to save on purchasing costs, but our favourite is the larger-batteried 64kWh version with its impressive 279-mile range. If range anxiety has been putting you off switching to an electric car, the Kona Electric 64kWh could well be the solution.
4 Jul, 2019 4.1
It may look more or less the same as Kona models with petrol and diesel engines, but that’s key to the Electric model’s appeal – it’s familiar inside and out to those who have yet to make the switch from more conventional models.
There are some styling touches that set it apart, though – a blanked-off grille with incorporated charge port flap, unique alloy wheels and the notable absence of an exhaust pipe. Still, many won’t realise this Kona is an EV at first glance.
It’s much the same inside where the standard car’s well-built, logically laid-out dashboard and interior remains. The fit and finish is good, but the materials used aren’t quite up to the same standard used in the BMW i3. One key design difference between the Kona Electric and its siblings is its lack of a gear lever – this is replaced by a bank of buttons used to select drive, neutral and reverse.
It’ll take even the most EV-phobic driver no time at all to get comfortable behind the wheel of the Hyundai Kona Electric. It’s a similar story with the very similar Kia e-Niro, however – a car that we feel makes better use of its interior space and offers better value for money in terms of standard equipment.
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Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The eight-inch touchscreen infotainment set-up in the Kona Electric is a good unit. You get satellite navigation with live services including traffic, along with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. Both of these smartphone integration packages work brilliantly, which isn’t a surprise given that the system is very similar to the excellent one fitted in the Kia e-Niro.
There’s an EV sub-menu that gives you access to climate pre-heating functions, as well as efficiency data. The sat-nav also overlays the location of EV charging points onto the map. Zoom out and a radius of remaining range is superimposed, too.
All of these features are also present on the Kona’s e-Niro rival as well, but this does not detract from their effectiveness. The infotainment screen is sharp enough and nicely responsive, while the physical hot keys to jump to different features make the infotainment set-up easy to use on the move.
Put simply, the Hyundai Kona is great to drive – it’s surprisingly fast in 64kWh guise, rides nicely and handles quite neatly. It’s not the last word in driver involvement – the Kona takes a more relaxed approach – but there’s enough grip and agility to help you make the most of the impressive power and torque in the most powerful version of the car.
Like most EVs, the Kona Electric’s lack of a gearbox means that engine braking is absent in the traditional sense – instead, the car uses a configurable regenerative braking system that can be used to simulate the effect while also charging the car’s batteries. Switched off, the system allows the Kona to coast off-throttle with almost no loss of momentum, but when dialled up, the car can almost be driven without touching the brakes – you can use the paddle on the left behind the steering wheel to step down gradually, much like changing down gears on an internal combustion car. It has a similar effect to that of the ‘e-Pedal’ system found in the Nissan Leaf, but doesn’t bring the car to a complete stop as that system does.
The Kona Electric is best enjoyed in 64kWh guise – its power and range are genuinely impressive – but those whose journeys are limited to urban commutes could save some money by opting for the 39kWh version. Performance isn’t quite as impressive but it still feels nippy, with a similar sense of instant torque and linear acceleration. It feels faster than an equivalent 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol Hyundai Kona and, while best suited to town driving, can easily keep up on open roads and motorways.
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Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
The Hyundai Kona Electric’s single electric motor is available in two power outputs: 134bhp and 201bhp. The first option is the cheaper of the two and comes with a smaller 39kWh battery, but still produces the same 395Nm of torque as the more powerful 64kWh version.
Performance is good in the 39kWh car, with 0-62mph taking 9.7 seconds and top speed limited at 96mph. The step to 64kWh brings a little more poke – 0-62mph drops to 7.6 seconds and top speed increases to 104mph.
Hyundai is a brand whose reputation for making safe and reliable cars is building: its 22nd-place finish in our 2019 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey doesn’t quite do justice to its great scores for reliability and low rate of reported faults. Results for servicing costs and overall build quality were also above average.
Instead, the brand’s overall result was skewed by owners’ dissatisfaction with performance, styling and driving experience – all issues addressed ably by the Kona Electric.
The Kona Electric has not been crash tested by Euro NCAP, but the standard Hyundai Kona received the maximum of five stars, with an 87 per cent adult protection rating and 85% child protection rating.
Standard safety kit includes autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, forward collision warning and six airbags – one less than the Kia e-Niro. It’s worth stepping up to Premium trim to add blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert – especially if you do lots of town driving – while the improved lane-keep assistance makes motorway jaunts safer too.
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The Kona Electric is subject to the same excellent five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty that applies to all conventionally powered Hyundai models. Kia offers its e-Niro with a seven-year warranty, but with a 100,000-mile limit.
Hyundai offers a comprehensive fixed-price servicing plan that can be tailored to your requirements. Yearly services are required as per a conventional, but expect slightly shorter mileage intervals.
The Kona Electric doesn’t deviate wildly from its internal combustion counterparts on the inside – designed from the ground up to house an electric drivetrain, the Kona still leaves ample room inside for its occupants. Elsewhere, a good driving position is easily found and visibility is good despite the Kona’s bold design and relatively small glasshouse.
It’s not the most practical small SUV around, but the Kona Electric certainly ranks among the most practical EVs in this price bracket. Its Kia e-Niro relative is still the car to pick in this class if outright practicality and packaging is high on your list for family life, but the Hyundai doesn’t trail by too much.
Cabin storage is good, with decent-sized door bins, a centre armrest cubby and a prominent pair of cupholders in the centre console.
It’s worth noting that the Hyundai Kona Electric is not rated for towing – you’ll have to explore the internal combustion Kona range for that.
Based on the same platform as its Kia e-Niro cousin, the Kona Electric measures in the same in width and height – give or take a few millimetres. However, it’s length that the slightly smaller Kona lacks in comparison – it’s shorter overall by a couple of centimetres and so interior space suffers.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Test drive the Kona Electric back to back with its Kia e-Niro counterpart and you’ll notice that the latter makes better use of its interior space. Up front, the Kona’s cabin feels a little cosier thanks to its prominent centre console where the Kia’s feature drive controller sits atop a useful open cubby.
In the rear, there’s less legroom and headroom for adults, but it’s still comfortable for two if they are of average height. Smaller children won’t be adversely affected and there are ISOfix points on each of the outer seats.
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There’s 334 litres of boot space in the rear with the seats up, which is competitive in this class if not particularly outstanding when compared against the wider pool of non-EV SUVs of this size. The Kia e-Niro trumps the Kona in this regard with its much more useful 451-litre load area.
Fold the seats down and you’ll have 1,114 litres to play with, versus the 1,405 in the back of the Kia. The rear bench folds with a 60/40 split but does not fold completely flat.
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Much like other electric cars, the Hyundai Kona Electric benefits from low running costs when compared to conventional internal combustion cars. The Kona Electric’s lithium ion battery replaces the fuel tank but costs far less money to top up – around £8 worth of electricity via a mains supply for maximum range on the larger 64kWh battery, in fact.
A lack of a traditional internal combustion engine means there are fewer moving parts to go wrong, which in turn should keep maintenance costs low. Hyundai’s excellent five-year, unlimited mileage warranty will help here, as well as its fixed-price servicing deals.
All electric cars are exempt from road tax – there are no local emissions to worry about – so you’ll save here too; BiK rates for company car users are fantastically low too, sitting at 16 per cent in 2019/20 and 2% thereafter.
Electric range, battery life and charge time
Hyundai quotes a maximum range of 279 miles for the pricier, 64kWh-batteried Kona Electric. Hyundai claims that a full charge will take nine hours and 35 minutes via its on-board 7.2kW charger, or just 75 minutes to get to 80 per cent if you have access to a 50kW fast charger at a service station.
The smaller battery returns a claimed 180 miles of range and takes just over six hours to fully charge via the on-board charger; a top-up to 80% via a 50kW charger will take around 57 minutes.
The Kona Electric comes as standard with a Type 2 charge cable that’ll work with most public fast chargers. An emergency three-pin cable is also supplied, but a full charge will take around 19 or 31 hours for the 39kW and 64kW batteries respectively.
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Equipped with the smaller of its two batteries the Kona Electric sits in insurance groups 22 (for the SE) and 23 (in Premium trim). The more powerful Kona Electric 64kW jumps to groups 23 and 26 in Premium and Premium SE specifications respectively.
For comparison, the BMW i3 is in groups 21 to 29, with the Kia e-Niro occupying group 28 in its single trim level.
Residual values and electric cars are not always a happy combination, but the Kona Electric should fare better than most – especially if you opt for the more future-proof 64kW version with its longer range. We’d expect the Kona to lose just over half of its original value over the course of three years.